Given the rise of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, it’s completely rational to assume that this wave of new leftists are the ones trying to unseat Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, but that’s not the case. In fact, progressives have allied with Nancy Pelosi.
The people coming for Pelosi are closer to the centrist wing of the party, and they released a statement yesterday calling for Pelsoi’s head. Here it is in full, signed by fourteen men and two women:
As we head toward the 116th Congress and reclaim our Democratic majority, we believe more strongly than ever that the time has come for new leadership in Congress.
We are thankful to Leader Pelosi for her years of service to our Country and our Caucus. She is a historic figure whose leadership has been instrumental to some of our party’s most legislative achievements.
However, we also recognize that the recent election, Democrats ran and won on a message of change. Our majority came on the backs of candidates who said that they would support new leadership because voters in hard-won districts, and across the country, want to see real change in Washington. We promised to change the status quo, and we intend to deliver on that promise.
Notice how there’s no specific reason why they oppose Pelosi other than some amorphous idea of change? This is not a well-organized attack, and one of the people initially on the letter is not on the one released to the public. Per the Washington Examiner:
Sixteen Democrats formally promised on Monday to vote against Nancy Pelosi’s bid to be House speaker, but the final letter didn’t include the signature of one House Democrat who is considering a challenge to Pelosi, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio.
Fudge signed a draft copy of the letter first obtained by the Washington Examiner Monday morning, which had 17 signatures on it, but her name was removed from the final copy.
One possible reason Fudge is absent from the letter is likely due to her potential challenge. In 2016, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, left his name off of a similar letter when he was considering a run against Pelosi — Ryan ultimately jumped into the race and lost. There’s also a possibility Fudge could find a way to support Pelosi if they reached some agreement; the lawmakers met Friday to discuss the ongoing battle.
This sure looks like classic Democratic confusion, where a group is going for a power grab without any real plan in place. Is Pelosi’s replacement Marcia Fudge? Is it Tim Ryan? The problem that this group of Democrats are running into is that they just don’t have the numbers to unseat Pelosi—especially in the wake of Pelosi cutting deals with the progressive wing of the party.
While plenty of these people trying to remove Pelosi are newly elected Democrats, they are providing a perfect contrast between the Democrats’ longstanding problem with understanding power, and this new generation of progressive politicians who understand the nature of power as well or possibly even better than Republicans. The old stalwarts are launching a hopeless power grab, while progressives are leveraging their power in an alliance with a woman who seems certain to hold on to her power, as Paste politics editor Shane Ryan wrote last week:
The truth is, the outlying groups can’t win. They have power insofar as the liberals need them for a majority, but that power is only magnified to Pelosi-killing levels if they can credibly threaten to turn Republican if they don’t get their way. Since they can’t do that, their hands are tied. The progressive left is taking the smart tactic at the moment by remaining quiet and letting the process play out—they have popular momentum within the country, and it would be foolish to spend that credit on a losing battle at a time when they should be consolidating their gains and aiming for more. If the centrist right continues to play hardball and even hijacks the vote, they’ll not only earn the ire of the party and its constituents—they’ll expose their own weakness.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.